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Empowering and Positioning PTs and PTAs Through APTA Initiatives

The weekend of April 21-22 and the days surrounding it were some of the most extraordinary in my 6 years as APTA president. On April 20, APTA's Leadership Forum kicked off in Washington, DC, with the Board of Directors (Board) meeting and Leadership Symposium, which was followed by the popular Federal Advocacy Forum. The 4-day event enabled APTA members to participate in some of the most important conversations that are taking place in the physical therapy profession. We'll be continuing work on the topics discussed, with a number of them being considered during upcoming meetings of the House of Delegates (House). I'd like to provide an overview of the topics and the role that the House will play in these association initiatives.

A report submitted to the Board of Directors on updating APTA's governance structures and processes gave Board members a platform for several hours of engaged discussion April 20-21. This report was the result of comprehensive work done by APTA members as part of a number of volunteer groups that began in 2009 to collect and assess data representing APTA's multiple interests and needs. More than 3,000 APTA members also provided their input and feedback as part of this process.

The report now will be forwarded to the House of Delegates so it can consider the recommendations that require a change to our bylaws (bylaws decisions are scheduled for 2013). The report also will be forwarded to our chapters and sections for their consideration.

APTA will provide a summary of the Board proposals and background on their development by May 4. More about the governance review initiative, designed to ensure the association is effective, nimble, responsive, and inclusive in today's environment, is available at

I hope you will take the time to learn about the proposals and the opportunities we have to reformat our structures and processes to best position APTA and the profession to meet the challenges we are facing now, and those challenges that are sure to come.

The Board also held a session on visioning that stemmed from a 2011 House motion calling for APTA to revise its Vision Sentence for Physical Therapy and Vision Statement for Physical Therapy. The objective is to look beyond 2020 and clearly articulate the profession's commitment to society. During this session we discussed the current persona of the physical therapist (PT), skills and competencies of the PT, the profession's culture, and important initiatives the profession will face in the next 10 years. We also identified top priorities and design principles of APTA that the Vision Task Force will use as it continues its work over the next few months conducting focus groups with members, interviews with thought leaders, and an environmental scan.

Later this year the task force will submit a draft of the new vision to the Board for its review. The new vision will go to the 2013 House for its consideration.

One of the most debated motions in last year's House resulted in the creation of a task force to review the current model of the PT, physical therapist assistant (PTA), and physical therapy aide (PT aide) as the only participants involved in the delivery of physical therapist services. The task force was also asked to identify potential new models of delivery of these services. A report from the task force was presented to the Board that, among other things, identified 4 models of service delivery that include using support personnel in selected elements of the PT plan of care. Following much rich discussion—which focused on our ability to best meet the needs of our patients/clients now and in the future, and the barriers to accessing physical therapist services—the Board voted to continue the exploration of a new practice model based on the scenarios in the task force report. Because the House will be considering motions this year on this topic, the Board will not take action on the motion it adopted until the House discusses the motions on its agenda in June. Background material to help inform House discussion on this topic will be posted for the delegates on the House of Delegates community.

On the topic of research, I'm happy to report that a workers' compensation study from APTA's health services research pipeline is wrapping up, and the results will soon be disseminated to association members, policymakers, payers, and other stakeholders. APTA will use a communication strategy similar to that of the direct access study last year in which the results were distributed through webinars, an audio conference, press materials, social media, talking points, and a toolkit for chapters and sections.

In addition to getting study results out to members on a regular basis, the goal of the research pipeline is to equip payers with data so that they can make informed decisions rather than indiscriminately reducing payments. Other projects currently in the pipeline include an investigation into home health care readmissions and a clinical education study.

With each Board meeting, recurring themes emerge and connect the various issues we discuss. Whether our conversation focused on payment, practice models, or APTA's vision, the phrases "raise the floor," "demonstrate the value of physical therapy services," "focus on patient-centered care," and "collaborate with other health care providers" surfaced again and again. These are all positive endeavors, and I challenge you to incorporate them in your practice.

Following the conclusion of the Board meeting, a town hall was held on APTA's alternative payment system (APS). Still in a draft format, this new payment model will be pushed to members in the near future through News Now and other communication channels for their review and comments. This proposed payment system is rooted in the severity-intensity concept described in PTJ in October 2011. Under APS, payment for physical therapy services would reflect why a PT performed an intervention, not what intervention was performed. Some have described the model as being "as much about what you do in your head as it is with your hands."

Updates on APS will be provided to members as they become available.

While much work was accomplished during the April Board meeting, much lies ahead. Your Board remains committed to moving forward the association's initiatives that empower and position each and every PT and PTA to better serve our patients and clients.

  • Posted by R Scott Ward at 12:03 PM
  • Labels: APTA

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